‘No Hate’ Vigil draws large crowd

A non-partisan, non-denominational, non-political ‘No Hate In Our State Solidarity Vigil’ held last Sunday in Lions Park, Red Lodge drew over 200 people. Local churches and individuals organized the vigil in response to recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists clashed with counter-demonstrators resulting in a day of violence and the death of a 32 year old woman and 19 injured.

Numerous speakers and messages from those who could not attend permeated throughout the hour-long vigil with Ed Trembley providing music that rekindled the peaceful spirit of the 1960s.

Brian Loewen, Pastor Alliance Church, sent a message that “The Alliance Church stands with the community with this vigil ‘No Hate In Our State’ while Don Hamilton, United Methodist Church in Roberts, opened up with a prayer advocating for peace.

Hope Smith read out a letter from Abbie Nordstrom who said, “Combating hatred lies in love, kindness and education.”

Dan Swaningson of Hope Chapel said the church also stood with Red Lodge “against hate in any shape and form.”

“There is a word picture in the Bible in the Book of Revelations,” said Swaningson. “It’s a description of heaven by John the Apostle, that talks of people of all nations standing shoulder-to-shoulder loving each others and loving their God. We can live in that Kingdom now, through the power of love.” He acknowledged that love is lacking from today’s world and suggested to the crowd, “It’s up to us to stop and listen to each other. If you want to be heard you have to hear first, see each other as people. It’s not new laws or politicians, it is up to us. It’s not Facebook and tweet posts, it’s us. The law can only be written in one place, the heart.”

Red Lodge Council member, Martha Brown read out a statement from Red Lodge Community Church Minister Chuck Aurand.

“A Pastoral letter by our national church leaders said plainly, ‘We the council of conference ministers and officers of the United Church of Christ strongly condemn acts of violent hatred expressed by the White Supremacists, Neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan members,” he wrote.

Red Lodge Mayor, Mike Schoenike, said the tragedy of the recent violence “is not just so much about the ideas but people who help them.” “The real tragedy is because of the actions they took. Even though hateful thoughts are very troubling they themselves are not necessarily the biggest problem. Hateful actions are,” he said. “It’s often heard hate is caused by fear, and that fear is often caused by ignorance and misunderstanding. I suspect there are people among us who even fear, and hate some of the people responsible for the violence in Virginia, not because we hate them but we hate the things they do, but ultimately, hate cannot defeat hate, only love can defeat hate.” Schoenike added that he didn’t think the route to ending hate was to go with more “legal proclamations.”

“Just saying you can’t do it isn’t enough. You can’t address hate through prohibition but for decades in this country that is precisely what we have done. We say, ‘you can’t do that’, ‘that word isn’t acceptable’, ‘you can’t display that symbol’, ‘you can’t hold that belief’ or ‘entertain that thought.’ Everyone has the right to believe in those sorts of restrictions but I don’t think they are effective,” he said.

“I’m a big believer in the First Amendment. Freedom of thought is what makes this country so great and allows that diversity that makes this country so great,” he said. “We tried to end hate with prohibition because it was an easier strategy to implement. It’s a whole lot easier to say to people ‘you can’t do that’ but ultimately it has failed. Many have held on to their hate and kept it hidden and in recent years some of our leaders have given some of those people permission to let their hatred resurface.”

Schoenike challenged those present to respond to hate in a different way and try to understand the source, “only then can we truly begin to address the hate.”

Betsy Scanlin, whose family helped start the Festival of Nations, said the Festival was designed to nurture the ethic diversity in the town and became “a celebration of diversity” and “ultimately a melting pot for this town.” She said that when she was growing up in Red Lodge there were several ethnic stores and hardware stores and churches.

“I wouldn’t have got to know any of them without the Festival of Nations,” she said.

Scanlin recalled an old Croatian friend who never talked to her Serbian neighbor but decades later they danced a waltz at the Festival of Nations. “The ultimate of coming together,” said Scanlin.

Gwen Williams, a Buddhist practitioner, told the crowd to “Think about respect and think about waking every day respecting yourself and those who you love, and everyone and everything, and things will change. And when those around you speak of hate, anger or lack of passion, take a moment and stop and tell them that you do love, and respect, and have passion and ask them to respectfully share that. It is not our place to change others. But we can change ourselves.”

Kelly Heaton, executive director of DSVS, spoke about “everyone should get to be themselves” whether it be the “color of their skin, the culture they practice, the religion they believe in, they way they identify or the people they love.”

“Our values should include communities of inclusion and respect. We also believe that everyone should be able to say ‘no.’ Reaffirm that our community says ‘no’ to hatred, bigotry, and exclusion. Our last principle is we should have fun, that our relationships are about seeing and appreciating each other as fellow human beings despite our difference. Everyone deserves healthy relations,” she said.

Next to speak was Dan Gainer who remembered when he was 3-4 years old learning the song, ‘Jesus Loves All Little Children Of The World.’

“I felt really good (singing that). It’s nice to be loved, it’s good to have warm fuzzy feelings,” he said. “But growing up on the border state south of the Mason Dixon Line when I was in high school or college, at least 3-4 out of the group weren’t loved by others. It didn’t make me feel good.”

“Love is an emotion and so is hate but they are both something else, an act of your will. We need the will to love one another. We’re all in this together,” he said.


Upcoming Events

  • Monday, November 20, 2017 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 8:00am
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 9:30am
    Open 2nd and 4th Wednesday 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. 206 N ‘D’ Street. More info 662-1060.
  • Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Thursday, November 23, 2017 (All day)
    The Red Lodge Carnegie Library will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 23, in observance of Thanksgiving Day.  The library will be open on Friday, Nov. 24 and Saturday, Nov. 25.